Right to refuse unsafe work

The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives a worker the right to refuse work that he or she believes is unsafe to himself / herself or another worker. A worker who believes that he or she is endangered by workplace violence may also refuse work.

The Act sets out a specific procedure that must be followed in any work refusal. It is important that workers, employers, supervisors, members of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) and health and safety representatives understand the procedure for a lawful work refusal.

To initiate a work refusal, the worker must:

  1. Immediately notify their supervisor or employer. Worker may also wish to advise the worker health and safety committee member and/or Office of Risk Management. Worker stays in safe place.
  2. The supervisor advises the Office of Risk Management, who will contact a worker member of the health and safety committee. To contact the Office of Risk Management, call:
    • Céline Clément, Assistant Director at 613-292-5931, or
    • Graham Nelson, Occupational Health and Safety Specialist at 613-219-9324, or
    • Protection Services at 613-562-5499
  3. The supervisor will investigate the matter in the presence* of the worker and the worker health and safety committee member.
    • If the supervisor agrees that the work endangers health and safety, then the proper corrective action will be taken. If the corrective action addresses the concern, then work will resume.
    • If the supervisor determines that the worker’s concern is not valid, the supervisor must report and explain this finding to the worker and to the worker health and safety committee member.
  4. If the worker still has reasonable grounds to believe that the work endangers health or safety, the situation will be reported to the Office of Risk Management. The Office of Risk Management will notify the Ministry of Labour (MOL).
  5. The worker may be assigned alternative, reasonable work. Another worker could be asked to do the work that was refused, but that worker must be informed of the work refusal and its reasons in the presence* of the worker health and safety committee member.
  6. The MOL will conduct its investigation in the presence* of the worker, the supervisor and the worker health and safety committee member.
  7. Once the MOL has concluded its investigation, the MOL inspector will issue a written decision and, if ordered, corrective action will be taken.

The work refusal procedure is also available as a flowchart.

*The investigation could be done from a distance (e.g. by video)

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